One City of Great Bend employee looked at the mountains of black tires heaped on the backside of the city’s compost site Wednesday afternoon.
“That’s a lot of tires,” she said.
She was right. City Sanitarian Gregg Vannoster estimates there were 10,000 tires dropped at the facility during the first-ever Citywide Tire Clean-up held Oct. 18-28.
If laid in a line, the tires would stretch nearly five miles. That is almost the distance from the east end of Great Bend to the west end.
“I was pleasantly overwhelmed,” he said. He said he would have felt lucky if the project had netted 2-3,000.
Over the course of the two-week drive, Vannoster had city employees and volunteers standing watch at the compost site to make sure no unwanted tires are left. They only accepted passenger car and light truck tires.
All persons bringing tires had to show proof of residency within the city limits of Great Bend (current utility bill or driver’s license).
The total is by no means a scientific measurement. “We had 537 vehicles come through the front gate,” Vannoster said, adding they based their number on an average of 20 tires per load.
They even accepted tires still on the rims. There were about 500-600 of these.
“I’d love to say every old tire in Great Bend is gone, but that is unrealistic,” he said. None the less, “obviously we made a big impact and went a long ways towards improving the appearance of our community.”
The clean-up inspired landlords to visit their properties and haul way tires. Some residents event caught the entrepreneurial spirit and charged neighbors a small fee to dispose of their tires.
This clean-up is part of a tire recycling effort and was held in conjunction with Western Ag Services which is disposing of the tires for the company’s use. Western Ag will use the sidewalls of the tires to hold down the hay tarps it makes. The treads will be stored at the site for a short time before they are recycled by Double D Family Mats of Park and turned into mats for livestock housed in feedlots.
Vannoster said it is unclear just how long the tires will remain stacked in Great Bend. Western Ag is working as quickly as it can to process them.
Everybody benefited from the clean-up, he said. The city is cleaner and, if the city had collected the tires and paid to have them taken away, it would have cost around $100 per ton.
At an average of 20 pounds each, the tires collected weigh about 200,000 pounds, or 100 tons. In other words, it would have cost the city about $10,000 to have the tires taken away.
This way, the only cost to Great Bend was a little labor to man the gate.
Plus, both companies involved can use all the tires they can get. Now, this old rubber will be put to good use.
As for a repeat, Vannoster said they are in the process of evaluating this year’s event. “We haven’t discussed doing it again.”